Reports from Cuba: Fish returns to Cubans’ tables . . . sort of

Marcelo Hernandez writes in 14yMedio from Havana via Translating Cuba:

Fish Returns to Cubans’ Tables… Sort of

These two fish cost 60 Cuba pesos (CUP).

Just crossing the street, the aroma changes. You can smell the fish cooking in the houses of Central Havana, where the product is for sale “liberated but controlled” — that is not on the ration book, but in limited quantities — according to a sign outside the markets. On the other side of the avenue, the residents wait for the fish to be unloaded as soon as possible, because of the refrigeration problems in the butcher shops.

The product sells at 20 Cuban pesos (CUP) a pound, in amounts ranging from 1 to 3 ‘units’ per family, according to the number of members.  Its arrival in the rationed markets has generated reactions of all kinds, from those who fear that its appearance means that chicken will continue to be missing, to those who protest the amounts they are allowed to buy.

In some neighborhoods the sale of rationed fish has already started. This sign details the complex allocations of ‘liberado’ (i.e. ‘freed’ or unrationed) but ’controlado’ (controlled) fish. A family (‘nucleo’) of 1-3 people gets one fish; a family of 4-6 people gets 2fish, and a family of 7 or more gets 3 fish.

On social media the internauts joke, resignedly. “I don’t know whether to eat it or to keep it as a souvenir for all the years when we won’t see one of these again,” says one user. “Before they sold ‘chicken for fish’* and now they sell ‘fish for chicken’. This country is upside down,” adds another.

While fish is already being sold in some neighborhoods, others are waiting for it to arrive, although they will barely receive a tiny bit of fish to share.

*Translator’s note: The libreta, or ration book, lists the amounts of rationed products each family or individual is entitled to. When the shopper goes to the bodega (ration store) another product may be substituted for something that is unavailable. Hence the phrase “chicken for fish,” and, in this case, its alternate, “fish for chicken.” 


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